Golf is a game that is littered with technical terms and, for beginners, this can be daunting! You’ll find that the experienced players you enjoy a round with will be more than happy to explain anything you don’t quite understand, and we’re here to help too!
This article deals with the term ‘scratch golfer’ which you may have heard. In fact, you’re not likely to meet many scratch golfers, but it is the aim of many to reach that milestone. So, in short, what is a scratch golfer?
Put simply, it is a golfer who, on any standard course on any given day, couple possibly par each hole. In other words, it is a player with a zero handicap (learn more about handicaps here). That’s why it’s a difficult stage to reach!
Scratch golfers can spend many, many years playing and perfecting their game before they can boast such an accolade, but don’t be thinking that they are perfect golfers: there is no such thing as a perfect golfer, and even the very best make mistakes – as we see from professionals all the time!
Let’s talk a little more about what makes a scratch golfer stand out.
As we mentioned above, no player is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, and that includes the very, very best. It’s interesting to look at some of the numbers that can be deduced by analysing the play from some of the best scratch golfers, so have a look at this:
A scratch golfer will hit the green in regulation two-thirds of the time. What does this mean? Hitting the green in regulation is determined as being on the green at least two under par.
They will hit the fairway with half of their intended shots.
Scratch golfers generally average about 1.67 putts per hole.
The average drive for a scratch player is around 250yds.
They will save from sand almost 60% of the time.
That’s just a few of the statistics you will find if you start researching scratch players, and what those numbers do is back up our statement that there is no such thing as perfection. What you are seeing, however, is clearly very consistent, and it is this consistency that makes a scratch player.
Now, let’s talk about what it takes to become a scratch player.
Have You Got What it Takes?
If you are setting out intending to become a scratch player, that’s fair enough, but the chances are – if you are good, practice a lot, and pay attention to what pros tell you – you’ll consistently lower your handicap, but probably not reach the magical zero. As already said, very, very few players do.
Ask anyone who has played alongside golfers at this level and they will also tell you this: it’s all very well having mastered the skills needed to be a top-level golfer, but you also need to have belief in your abilities to the utmost degree.
There is a certain depth of belief that allows a scratch golfer to be able to recover easily from a mistake. Many a golfer will dwell on a mistake; this breed more mistakes. How often do you see a top level professional make the same mistake twice in a row? It’s a rare thing, and that comes from them believing – knowing, in fact – that one mistake does not ruin a hole. There is time to recover.
This is one of the major differences between you and the best: the knowledge you are good enough to come back from a pitfall.
Now, of course, if you’re reading this you don’t consider yourself close to the highest level, and are probably a relative newcomer to the game, but rest assured – golf is a difficult game, and not just for you and other inexperienced players!
So, we have a couple of ideas forming here as to what makes a scratch player special: skills that they have learnt over time, from plenty of practice, and also belief in their ability. Now we’ll have a closer look at what is needed to hit the top!
How Do You Reach Scratch Level?
As you will have gathered by now, the answer to this question is: with very great difficulty! Here’s a thought: according to statistics from the US Golf Association, 2% of golfers can proudly claim a handicap of zero or below. That’s two out of every 100 players. Don’t let that dishearten you, however, as you may end up being among that 2% – it’s just unlikely! Of course, you play golf to enjoy it, and want to reach the best level you can, so there is no harm in applying the discipline that scratch golfers have applied, is there?
What does this mean? To become the best player you possibly can be – and to strive to reach scratch level – you will need to be doing the following:
Practice a lot; and we mean a lot. You need to be practicing or playing on a daily basis, it needs to become the biggest part of your life beyond your family.
Playing a lot; again, we mean a lot! You need to separate practice and play into two distinct parcels. During a round you should be noticing where your weaknesses are; during practice, you should be addressing said weaknesses.
Work on your attitude and eradicate your temper; it’s very, very easy to get annoyed, frustrated or even downright angry when things don’t go your way, but you simply can’t let this happen as it will affect your concentration, your belief in yourself, and ultimately your game.
Ball striking is the key; work on getting consistent drives off the tee, work on consistent approach shots, aim to get on the green in regulation.
Manage the risks – i.e. don’t try and be clever with your shots, but pick those that offer the easiest route. The best players aim to keep the ball in play all the time, as it helps you reach your goal – the green.
On the green, avoid more than two putts. Putting is where games are largely lost and won, and if you are in trouble on the green, you are in trouble full stop.
That’s a brief look at what a scratch golfer needs to be working on, and what makes one different to your average player.
Is It A Reasonable Goal?
Let’s go back to that little number at the start of the last section: 2%. That’s the proportion of golfers who are dedicated enough to reach a zero handicap, to become scratch golfers.
If you play golf, the likelihood is you do so for enjoyment. If you aim to become a scratch golfer you have to consider this: will the frustration of failing to reach the level you have set as your goal spoil your enjoyment of the game?
For many people, that is what happens. You will get upset and frustrated that you are not progressing quick enough, or that you are still making mistakes that you were making months ago. Think of the amount of time you need to dedicate to becoming that zero handicap player: you will be practising or playing every day. Can you afford to dedicate that much time and effort to golf, over your other commitments in life?
For most golfers, the answer to that last sentence is no; it’s a lot of hard work, and it will impact heavily on other areas of your daily life.
If, however, you are a player who has progressed quickly and who’s handicap is falling, and you want to take things further, the choice is yours. You can decide whether you want to become one of the 2% – and why you want to do that – or whether you simply want to carry on as you are, improve as best you can, and enjoy a round of golf when you have the time.
We hope you enjoyed the article and we’ve given you some insight into what it takes to be a scratch player.
I'm Rob. I'm an avid golf enthusiast and golf tutor with over 40 years experience playing this beautiful but frustrating game. I'm here to offer advice (if you want it) and share my passion with golfers from around the world.